First Air Battle Since Sept. Israeli Jets Down Two Egyptian Mig-21s over the Sea

Israel Air Force planes shot down two Egyptian MIG-21 jet interceptors in a dogfight over the Mediterranean about 30 miles off the Sinai coast this afternoon. A military spokesman said the battle ensued when the Israeli planes, on sea patrol, encountered the Migs. He said the Egyptian pilots were seen bailing out into the sea. All Israeli planes returned safely to their bases.

The announcement did not disclose the type or number of Israeli planes involved in the encounter, the first air battle since Sept. 1971 when Israeli jets shot down an Egyptian Sukhoi bomber. The Egyptian jets downed today were the 60th and 61st MIG-21s shot down since the Six-Day War and the 113th and 114th Egyptian planes of all types downed by Israel since then.

While some tension was evident here this evening, informed sources believe that both Israel and Egypt regard today’s air battle as an isolated incident and are anxious not to escalate it into a new outburst of hostilities. Air activity over the Sinai was resumed by Egypt in recent months. On three occasions, new Soviet MIG-23 jets, the world’s fastest combat planes, overflew Israeli positions on the peninsula, apparently on reconnaissance missions. They are believed to have been piloted by Russians. Israeli jets were unable to make contact with them.

Foreign sources here indicated that Israel has also engaged in reconnaissance activity over Egypt, employing pilotless planes, one of which reportedly reached the outskirts of Cairo.

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